Thursday, October 17, 2013

Start Your Engines

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

It’s the middle of October, and for a lot of aspiring novelists, that means we’ve officially started the countdown. Not to Halloween or Thanksgiving or even Christmas. No, we’re counting down to NaNoWriMo. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in one month.* Even if you don’t finish, you may end up with far more words in that one month than you usually make. 

Do you like how my technological capacities never extended
to figuring out how to put my name and the title of my work
into this certificate? This is why I'm a writer, not a techie.
I have now participated for three years and “won” twice (winning means you hit 50,000 words). It is exhilarating (and you know you’re a geek when typing for hours gives you an adrenaline rush). There is no time for editing, for nitpicking, for worrying. There is only the writing, only the waves of words flowing onto the page. To be truthful, a lot of them will get trashed. But some will be gems. Some will get your story unstuck. Some will help you think about your characters and plots in new ways. Some will be deeper and stronger than anything you would have come up with if you weren’t so fully immersed for a month.

NaNoWriMo does require a bit of commitment, and it can be a completely crazy month, but it is manageable. Let’s do the numbers, shall we?

Let’s say you average 30–40 wpm (this is actually rather fast for writing your own prose, but also possible). That means you need about 21–28 hours to write during the month of November. Assuming you don’t work on Sundays or Thanksgiving, that really puts you around 1–1.5 hours per day.

Here’s how you manage it: You get up an hour earlier. After scripture study (because, hey, you still gotta do the most important stuff first), you go directly to the computer. You do not shower yet, you do not eat. YOU DO NOT CHECK YOUR EMAIL OR FACEBOOK OR ANYTHING ELSE. You write write write like mad. You never erase. When your kids wake up, inevitably earlier than they’re supposed to, you take a little break to take care of them (or make them fend for themselves for a few more minutes).

You send your kids to school and write. Or, if your kids are at home, you send them to their room to play on their own for half an hour. You can get at least 1,000 words done in half an hour, if you hurry. You write while they do their homework. You send them to their friends’ houses to play.

If you can, you have your husband put the kids to bed, and you DO NOT CLEAN. You write. You cash in on babysitting favors as often as necessary. You have friends who understand the need for alone time. They will watch your kids for a while. You will write. You will cash in on all accumulated good-wifey points.** You will explain to your husband why this matters to you so much—that writing is a talent, and you’re simply being a good disciple of Christ by embracing the parable about multiplying your talents. Your husband will take the kids out to a few more parks and playdates in the evenings, and you will write.*** Saturdays are great too—you can catch up and get ahead in only a few hours.

You will also take lots of extra vitamins. Because when you inevitably get sick in the middle of November, you will need to kick it quickly and get back to work. In the meantime, while you are looking miserable and pathetic, have your hubby or a good friend make you some soup while the kids play in the other room and you . . . you guessed it . . . WRITE! Then, after you’ve finished your quota for the day, you can lie pathetically on the couch and watch Pride and Prejudice and eat chocolate.

See all the good that will come from NaNoWriMo? So it’s time to start revving the writing engines. Is anyone else preparing for the madness?

* This is about 200ish pages of an average paperback novel.
** We don’t really keep track of these at our house, but I do certainly cash in. The month of October is for accumulating them: clean the house a little more, make some special dinners, do a little more . . .  whatever, so that your family knows you love them before you hide in your writing cave for a month.
*** My husband and kids discovered every park within a 20-mile radius during previous Novembers. Isn’t this great father/child bonding time? Or grandparent/child? Or neighbor/child? Aren’t you an excellent woman for giving them this wonderful opportunity?


  1. Since I am mostly trying to finish my first novel (at 50,000 words and counting) I think that November will be my FiMyFiDraMo- Finish My First Draft Month. ;-) I started it back in March, so that would get it done in less than a year. But I think I will use that NaNoWriMo excitement to set a goal and REACH it. By the end of November it will be done! Good luck! :-)

  2. I'm doing NaNo this year, too...for the first time! Your post has me excited to get to work!

  3. I too am doing Nano this year. It's been awhile since I have done so, but I am excited to throw my hat in for this year! This time I'm trying a different tactic, I'm writing an outline first. So I'm spending October fine tuning my outline so I can be ready for November. Other tricks I use to get through November:
    1. My husband or children make dinner EVERY night. (This takes a big burden off my mind. I don't have to think about what's for dinner, I can use that mind power for my book)
    2. I put my hair in a clippie and do minimal to no makeup. (This is a major sacrafice since I have to go work looking like that. I even had a student ask me last time when Mrs. Wilson was coming back. I explained that I WAS Mrs. Wilson and she said, "but she's pretty!" LOL!
    3. I write during my lunch break and take a notebook every where I go.

    4. I try to get to the library after work at least once a week, it's my quiet place!
    5. I try to find a friend who is online and do word challenges with them. (Word Challenges are where we pick a set amount of time and start writing then at the end of that time we see who wrote the most words. Sometimes we even exchange our favorite passage with each other.)
    6. I type fast!! I work so I don't have 2-3 hrs a day to write, so I have learned to type faster. There may be typos, but I can catch those later.
    7. I think about my book all day long. (This is sometimes troublesome at work when I forget to do something. Or when I'm driving and I miss my turn. But it helps me know what I'm writing when i finally get a chance to sit down and do it.

    I'm looking forward this writing adventure next month, I hope many of you join us!!

  4. It is pretty fun and awesome. If you don't have one already, though, you must have an accountability partner! Unless you are way more motivated than I am (which I admit is not all that hard--some trees are more motivated than I am). Anyway, find one! Or email me, and I'll be it. :) Good luck!

  5. Oh, awesome plan! Hooray!

  6. All really good advice. To add to #6: DON'T DELETE! Fix it later. In December. :)



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